Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ How Confused Are We?

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Open enrollment started with more of a whimper than a bang Nov. 1, as the Trump administration continued to talk down the health law it is required to operate. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers continue to struggle to reach agreement on legislation to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired Oct. 1. And President Donald Trump’s commission on the opioid epidemic released its final report and recommendations.

In this episode of “What the Health?” Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post discuss these topics as well as possible health changes included in the emerging tax overhaul bill in Congress.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

Wednesday was a strangely quiet opening day for Obamacare enrollment. The administration had no special announcements or events — but former President Barack Obama released a video, and other interested groups, such as hospitals, insurers and brokers, may step in to try to encourage people to sign up. Republicans continue to blame Democrats for problems with the Affordable Care Act, while Democrats say the GOP is strangling the law. This messaging war may prove critical for the 2018 midterm campaign. Republicans are deeply divided about whether to include a provision in the tax reform bill that would get rid of the ACA’s individual mandate penalty. The provision would save the federal government money, but it would also result in millions fewer Americans with health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Among those urging its inclusion, however, is Trump. Democrats may be between a rock and a hard place on the bill to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They love that program, but Republicans want to raid the ACA’s public health prevention fund to pay for CHIP. The administration released a proposed rule last Friday that could have significant changes in which health benefits are guaranteed for consumers buying coverage on the ACA marketplaces. President Trump has yet to offer more money to fight the problem of opioid abuse, but many of the individual recommendations from his commission are being welcomed by the public health community.

Plus, for “extra credit,” the panelists recommend their favorite health stories of the week they think you should read, too.

Julie Rovner: Kaiser Health News’ “ ’No One Is Coming’: Hospice Patients Abandoned At Death’s Door,” by JoNel Aleccia and Melissa Bailey.

Stephanie Armour: Slate’s “ Going Out With a Bang,” by Melissa Jayne Kinsey.

Joanne Kenen: Health Affairs’ “ Choosing Wisely Campaign: Valuable For Providers Who Knew About It, But Awareness Remained Constant, 2014-2017,” by Carrie H. Colla and Alexander J. Mainor.

Paige Winfield Cunningham: Vox.Com’s “ The fax of life,” by Sarah Kliff.

To hear all our podcasts,  click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on  iTunes,  Stitcher  or  Google Play.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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